I’ve been thinking a lot about this post lately.
I don’t know you guys, I keep seeing this post around and I didn’t want to add anything to the commentary for various reasons, mainly that I love the OP, agree that Scott is a hero who cares and I love the OP. But I’m having a really big problem with where this post has now gone kind of encapsulated by those tags. Stiles is not an antihero to me. He’s just not. When you say antihero you’re implying things about the character that seem to have gone to the other side of the extreme of “Stiles is perfect and awesome.” That he doesn’t have morals, that he’s not courageous.
Neither of these extreme interpretations rings true to me. I understand the want to go to the other extreme because of how frequently Teen Wolf fandom erases Scott’s own heroism for the sake of propping up Stiles but ignoring Stiles own heroic aspects and applying this other extreme to him rings false to me as well.
To start I want to get three things out of the way:
1. This is not going to be an argument that Scott is not THE hero of Teen Wolf. Scott is the hero of Teen Wolf. He is the main character, the main driving force of the show, this is about his journey. He is the TEEN WOLF. This is an argument about the contrast between the two and about a specific interpretation of Stiles character that I’ve come to disagree with.
2. Stiles is a teenager, Scott is a teenager. These two characters are still growing and maturing. They are going to make mistakes. They are going to be fuck up. Allison is a hero, she is a hero who has stumbled and faltered but that doesn’t erase the heroic things she has done and her service to help. This is the same for Scott and Stiles. The point of heroes is not that they are perfect, it’s that they are imperfect. Removing flaws from characters and having them make the right and good decisions all the time is boring. There’s thus then nothing for the character to learn, nowhere for the character to grow. If I wanted to watch a show about characters who have their shit together I probably wouldn’t be watching any show ever.
Teenagers especially have growth and learning to do. It’s called Teen Wolf for a reason and that reason is because they’re teens.
3. I have maintained they are both heroes and on a heroes journey together. That’s my interpretation of the show. Scott with Stiles, Stiles with Scott. You cannot and should not separate these two ever. They are the Watson and Sherlock of our times, okay? Get over it.
Now to get on with it: I think a lot of people seem to mistake Scott and Stiles’ differences as hero and antihero when really they’re idealism versus realism and sidekick versus hero. The main issue is the Jackson storyline and their solutions. But the problem here is that people seem to forget really important details:
1. When the Kanima was thought to be Lydia, Stiles was the leading force in not believing it was her (he was right) and attempting to shield her from the pack (he was right). People then point to Jackson being the actual Kanima and Stiles reaction which is to advocate killing him. The issue here is Stiles’ relationship with Jackson and Lydia. First of all, he doesn’t believe Lydia is the Kanima which means the pack is attempting to kill an innocent person.
Second of all, Jackson is a bully. Has bullied Stiles and Scott for what we can assume is his whole school career, he doesn’t not believe nor see a good side to Jackson for really good reason. We have see Jackson insult Stiles, insult Scott, be verbally abusive to Lydia, insult and belittle Stiles’ father on at least two occasions. There is no reason for Stiles or Scott to give Jackson the benefit of the doubt.
Third of all, the audience has information Stiles (and pack) does not have. We know Jackson’s background (not that it helps us figure out his motives sufficiently IMO) but most importantly at the time Scott, Stiles and Allison are having the main conversation WE know that Jackson is being controlled. Stiles, Scott and Allison do not know this yet, they’re getting there but they’re rapidly running out of time. Why? Because Jackson is killing people. To death. It’s a very serious life and death situation and their solution at that point is untenable.
Killing him is stopping him and at that time they don’t actually have any solution besides putting him in a van in the woods which backfires at the end of the episode and into the next where more deaths happen. Killing him is not the cleanest solution but it is a solution. It’s a solution that a LOT of heroes make. Think of any comic book you like for instance. A lot of evil characters have sympathetic back stories, are being controlled by circumstances out of their control. But the greater good outweighs the life of one man and thus a viable solution is to eliminate the threat entirely. Shooting at Derek is also a good practical solution. Derek would most likely survive it would take down the leader and cause confusion. Allison’s solution is actually really dangerous at that point and would most likely cause more damage to the pack. That’s what is causing a lot of the tension in that scene (as a side note, one of the reasons Scott’s pack functions so well is that they debate and discuss and listen to each other. Allison and Scott both listen and take seriously Stiles’ suggestion of killing Jackson but dismiss it and Stiles drops it and supports them. Allison and Stiles discuss two plans and weigh the odds together, as a team. Derek’s pack doesn’t discuss anything, it’s a dictatorship, not a democracy. Doesn’t make for good morale or decision making.)
The differences between Scott’s plan and Stiles’ plan is idealism versus realism. Scott’s plan comes from the heart, it’s definitely workable, it ends up okay because Jackson gets a redemption (SORT OF? Or however you interpret that finale I guess and what your feelings are on Jackson) and it’s born out of knowing that something else is probably happening that they need to stop. Stiles’ is born of realism. He knows Jackson is killing someone, they’re running out of time, people are dying, they should eliminate the threat. Stiles, as a sidekick does, immediately drops him plan and actually helps Scott stay on track in the very next episode when Jackson threatens Allison and Scott wants to kill him. He drops it. He’s done, he’s mentioned it as an option and that’s it. An antihero would kill Jackson.
2. A lot of the popular interpretation of Stiles’ character lately seems to involve saying he doesn’t give a shit about anyone but two-three people and that’s he’s an asshole. Which, to me, seems like a weird reading of the show. We can take that interpretation and say, okay he does only care about Scott and his father. That still doesn’t actually make him an antihero because he still does things to help and save others even if it’s at the service of saving people he loves. This is a hero thing, it’s making the sacrifice because you love people. You love 2 people, you love an IDEA and maybe not people, you love 1 person, you love 1 billion people. You love something, you make the sacrifice. The end. But Stiles has shown he does care about people and that he thinks pretty critically about the decisions he makes.
When we talk about caring we can talk about Derek. Stiles has shown pretty great empathy towards Derek. Derek and Stiles share a pretty weird relationship with each other, actually. Stiles knows who Derek is in the very first episode, he’s remembered his family, Derek’s name, his history. He remembers this all the way up to the end of the series when he confronts Chris Argent about Derek’s family (of werewolves, of which Stiles is pretty immediately excepting of BTW) burning alive. He is empathetic to the point of anger for Derek’s family and for Derek AND for Scott. He is confronting a dangerous man on the behalf of the idea that you killing people, werewolf people included, is WRONG. In this same episode he also again puts his own life in danger to help kill the Alpha. Which is for Scott but it’s also for Derek, it’s for Allison, it’s for basically everyone in that scene. Just as Jackson does it to help everyone. These are heroic actions that aren’t selfish.
His main concern in confronting Jackson is the fact that he’s killing people. TO DEATH. His concern is that people are dying.
He takes the reins on holding Erica and showing a lot of concern for her wellbeing and health despite the fact she’s been was an asshole to him and hit him over the head with his car part. He still talks to her, listens to her and seems to forget it entirely.
He stands up to Peter and bargains for Lydia’s life and resists temptation (practically a mythological storyline right there). He stands up to Gerard and basically sacrifices himself. He stands up to Chris. These are all heroic moments in Stiles life.
A huge part of the episode of Battlefield is Stiles WANTING to help and NEEDING to help but not being capable (in his mind) of doing so. Basically Stiles emulates Scott, he wants to DO Scott’s job but what he learns at the finale is that he can’t do Scott’s job, he doesn’t need to. He just needs to be there, to support and to do what HE does best. Put shit together, assist. Support. Sidekickery.
Characters have priorities. This is not a problem to have. Scott has priorities, Scott cares and loves his mother, Stiles and Allison. That is his pack. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t also care about other stuff and people and things, he shows this multiple times (mainly with Erica, Lydia and sometimes Jackson). Stiles loves his father and Scott and also cares about Lydia. He has shown capacity to care about lives outside of those two-three people and it’s silly to erase that. People have priorities, this isn’t a bad thing. We prioritize all the time. Otherwise we could never get anything done or move forward. This doesn’t make one selfish or an antihero.
Would Stiles sacrifice everything to save his dad? Most decidedly yes. Would Scott do that for his mother? We’ve seen that already. These two things are the same. These are reasonable priorities to have. They are family. Some things come before some other things. This is a mature worldview. There’s also nothing wrong with having a small circle of people to love, some people do this. I am one such person because I’m shy, occasionally very introverted and anxious. It doesn’t make me selfish.
Scott also has the capacity to care and focus on more people because he’s the LEADER and he has the abilities to do so. He’s the LEADER, the show is setting for his whole job to be leading these people and figuring how to save them. He can do this because he is the main hero of the show, he has the powers etc. It’s not Stiles’ job as a character to do this, he doesn’t have the abilities, it’s not his JOB in the story. His job is to help, to guide, to inform, to service. He is an informed sidekick and future guide to the McCall pack. He is the Deaton of the McCall pack.
I think part of this whole thing is that in fandom, there is a confusion and breakdown of the roles on the show. Scott is the hero, Stiles is the sidekick.
Sidekicks are ALSO heroes and can often be the focus of certain plots, side stories, back stories etc. there’s nothing wrong with say a Derek/Stiles fic where Stiles is the hero of said story. Because as a fic writer you are basically looking off to the side of canon and saying “hey, what is this person up to right now/future/past/alternate universe?” Off to the side, is the key there. Stiles isn’t the main focus of the show, so applying the same type of hero characterizations to Stiles makes Stiles out to be close to a bad guy. This conflation of the two characters and their roles has led to erasure of Scott and that’s not good. Okay? It’s not.
But it’s also not good, to me, to then go to the other extreme and say “Scott is perfect and Stiles is an asshole” because that’s not what the show is telling me.
4. There is a dark side to Stiles character. He went out looking for a dead body for funsies, he taunted Scott when he was not really himself over something pretty petty, he wanted to shoot Derek in the head. But these things don’t erase the majority of the good things that he has done, it’s also not the overhwelming majority of his character. It’s a part of him, yes. As Scott’s obsession with Allison is a part of him but doesn’t erase he heroic things he’s done. These things are part of a well rounded character. Characters with flaws and arguments and fuck ups.
Stiles lies, he lies frequently to his father and manipulates him. But he does this with purpose and is never shown to be comfortable with it and it seems to weigh heavily on his mind (in fact it’s a driving force of his whole unfinished arc in season two). It’s painful. It’s not willy nilly lying. It’s lying with a sacrificial purpose. That’s pretty fucking heroic.
That’s what makes them interesting, that’s what makes Stiles particularly interesting to me. But I’m not sure that saying “Stiles is an asshole” rings true to me. Stiles is very snarky, he mocks. When he mocks Scott he does it out of love and affection (as Scott does to him), this is their friendship. When he’s mean to characters it’s usually because a character is mean to him (see: Jackson). He’s never shown to be particularly dark though. A dark character on this show is Kate, is Gerard, is Derek when he’s high on hubris and teenagers. We don’t even see Isaac as a particularly dark character because of the one scene he has where he wants to murder Lydia for Nice Guy reasons. Because later on, he’s a hero and doing heroic things. Danny is happy his ex is harmed and his best friend is Jackson but Danny is mainly seen as awesome otherwise. In show canon, Lydia makes out with Scott yet it’s quickly forgiven by Allison (after a little revenge). These are just aspects to these people, not their overwhelming characteristics. We take them as a whole interpretation, as moments in lives. If we just take Scott’s character as all the times he’s with Allison and ignore everything else, you get a really annoying Scott. If you just take Stiles as all the times he lies and wanting to see a dead body, you get a really dark Stiles. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with doing so especially in a fic interpretation or au idea or whatever. But thinking critically one must realize that’s not everything they are.
5. What I’m advocating here is not really much. You can interpret characters however you wish, it’s fun, it’s fandom. Whatever. But what I’m saying is here is why I disagree.
I think Jeff has actually (surprisingly) created characters that are pretty well rounded and three dimensional. They are not the extremes, they’re not perfect. They’re just a bunch of teenagers.